Meet the Season 6 VIP Voting Panel

Heyda Vass

Live Event Emcee: Heyda Vass

Heyda Vass – Industrial Hygiene Coordinator, Luck Companies

Heyda Vass, is the Industrial Hygiene Coordinator for Luck Companies, the nation’s largest family owned and operated producer of crushed stone, sand, gravel and aggregates with facilities from Maryland to Atlanta, GA.  She is currently assigned to oversee Industrial Hygiene Program and requirements for MSHA and OSHA regulated sites.  She previously served in the Environmental Health and Safety roles in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, where she collaborated on the development and execution of policies and procedures to reduce health hazards.  Mrs. Vass’ other leadership roles include developing and managing critical programs such as Process Safety Management (PSM), new products project manager, OSHA Volunteer Protection Program (VPP) coordinator and process and packaging validation.  Mrs. Vass holds a Master’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Science Campus.  She currently has her quality auditor certification from the American Society for Quality and an Associate Safety Professional from the American Society of Safety Professionals. Mrs. Vass is also called “abuela” by her two grandkids, Mya and Noah.

VIP Voting Panel

Jill Rick portrait

Jill Rick, senior communications specialist, PR and CSR, Komatsu

Jill Rick is a former journalist turned PR and marketing professional. A graduate of the journalism school at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Jill spent a decade working as a newspaper reporter and columnist before moving on to marketing communications roles in the tech and manufacturing industries. Now Jill handles public relations and corporate social responsibility efforts at Komatsu, which develops and supplies technologies, equipment and services for the construction, mining, forklift, industrial and forestry markets. In her role, Jill is working to help change the perception of mining through outreach focused on the industry’s commitment to creating a sustainable future.

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Carlos Eyzaguirre – Sr Researcher, FLSmidth

Carlos Eyzaguirre joined FLSmidth in 2012 and currently holds a Sr Researcher position in the R&D Mining Division, his main focus has been in hydrometallurgy, area in which he received an R&D 100 award in 2016 when a team of FLS researchers developed an atmospheric leaching method for the extraction of copper from primary sulfides (ROL) and is currently responsible for the research and development of the precious metals portfolio. Throughout his career he has had extensive operational experience in large gold processing facilities in South America, North America, and Central Asia as well as different mineral processing technologies such as roasting, autoclaving, bioleaching, atmospheric leaching, etc. Graduated as a Chemical Engineer from the Technical University of Oruro, Bolivia and soon after migrated to Canada. Outside of work he enjoys nature and exploring the beautiful Wasatch front in Utah.

Julie (Varichak) Marinucci Headshot

Julie (Varichak) Marinucci –Land Commissioner and Director of Lands & Minerals, St. Louis County, MN

I am a Michigan Tech mining engineering graduate who has dedicated my career to serving the iron mining industry and the people of northeastern of Minnesota. My family has called Minnesota’s Iron Range home for many generations and where I reside with my husband and two daughters. In March of 2018, I made the move to St. Louis County and currently serve as the Land Commissioner and Director of Lands & Minerals, with a focus on maximizing the potential in the 900,000+ tax forfeited parcels St. Louis County manages. Previously, I spent time with Caterpillar, Cleveland Cliffs and SEH with focus in mine operations, engineering, project management and stakeholder engagement but can now include land and timber management to the list. With our MN Section/Subsections, I have enjoyed the opportunity to engage with our communities and schools. I have a passion for the mining industry and the love to share it with anyone who will listen.


Dr Abani R Samal – Principal and Owner, GeoGlobal, LLC

Dr Abani R Samal holds PhD from SIU Carbondale, DIC & MS from Imperial College, London and M Tech (Mineral Exploration) degree from IIT (ISM) Dhanbad, India. He is in mining industry since 1996. Currently he is the principal and owner of GeoGlobal, LLC. Dr Samal provides consulting services to exploration and mining companies, government agencies and major financial institutions worldwide. Mineral deposit evaluation, applied geostatistics and mine-mill reconciliation are his technical specializations. He provides strategic advice to governmental agencies for development of mineral resources. He offers professional development programs to industry professionals and academic researchers world-wide. Major professional societies including SME, AIG, CIM and MEAI have hosted his professional development programs.

Abani R Samal is a Registered Member of SME and a leading member of many other international professional societies. Dr Samal is an active contributing member of the Resource and Reserve committee of SME. Currently he Chairs the Government and Public Affairs Committee (GPAC) and member of the Growth Strategic Committee of the SME.
He also served in the Ciommittee of Committees (nominating committee) of the Society of Economic Geologists (SEG) for 2020-21.
Currently, serving in the nominating committee of the Geological Society of America (GSA).
Dr Samal also serves as a Council Member of the Mining Engineers Association of India (MEAI) for the second term; each term of two years.

He serves in the editorial boards of two international journals: Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration journal (MMEX) and Natural Resources Research Journal (NARR) and Mining Engineering Journal (MEJ).